by Caitlin H,
Oct 23, 2023
If you’ve ever felt lonely, you know how challenging navigating it can be. Many things cause loneliness, including some that you may not even realize are to blame.
- Life events: Sometimes, life events like moving to a new city, breaking up with a significant other, or dealing with the death of a pet or loved one can cause loneliness.
- Your personality type: Introverted people are less likely to expose themselves to social interactions and may be more prone to feeling lonely.
- Social media: A decline in real-life social interactions due to social media has many people feeling more isolated in the modern era. Additionally, people often get sucked into social media and place a high priority on their social interactions rather than in real-life ones.
- Mental health challenges: Cognitive distortion, or thinking inaccurately, causes some people to focus on the negative and worst possible outcomes, leading to a guarded outlook that can be isolating and off-putting to others. Anxiety and depression also may be at play as someone struggling with either may be less apt to connect with others.
Whatever is causing it, loneliness is a very powerful emotion that can have detrimental effects on your mental and physical health. In fact, a 2019 article from the National Institute on Aging noted that researchers have found that social isolation and loneliness put you at various risks, such as:
- Heart disease
- High blood pressure
- Weaker immune system
- Cognitive decline
- Alzheimer’s disease
In addition, it’s important to note that it’s just as possible to feel lonely surrounded by family and friends as it is if you live alone.
That’s why finding ways to combat loneliness and participating in meaningful, productive activities can have a powerful impact on your health and weight loss journey.
Take these five practical steps to keep loneliness at bay.
1. Explore the Emotion Behind It
Fighting a strong emotion like loneliness may be your default coping method. However, denying you feel alone or trying to suppress it won’t make it go away. And the longer you pretend it doesn’t exist, the more likely the feeling will grow. Instead, take some time to sit with the emotion and acknowledge that it’s there. Try envisioning it like you are outside yourself, and accept that you’re an actual human with genuine emotion. Write down the reasons why you feel lonely to explore what’s going on in your life and see the potential for changes to mitigate it.
2. Write Out an Ideas List.
After you’ve explored what’s causing your loneliness, the next step is to write out activities that may help you counter and deal with the emotion. That could entail many things unique to you, but here are a few examples:
- Planning a monthly outing with friends.
- Joining a neighborhood walking group.
- Find online forums for activities you find interesting.
- Exploring social media for groups with similar interests and attending their events.
- Talking on the phone to a friend or loved one.
- Volunteering for a cause that’s dear to you.
- Engaging in a coping activity you enjoy, such as walking, sewing, baking, gardening, or reading.
3. Take the First Leap.
Once you’ve written out your plan and ideas, now you can take the leap and try one or more of your ideas. Reach out to an old contact for a phone conversation. Explore Facebook Groups or MeetUp for activities. Google volunteering opportunities near you. Ask a local college or learning center about in-person classes for things like cooking or baking. Head to a rec center and sign up for a fitness or yoga class. There are many fun activities you can try!
4. Keep the Momentum Going.
After you’ve tried an activity from your list, write about your experience there. If it was enjoyable, keep the momentum going by signing up to attend regularly. If it wasn’t for you, pick another activity from your idea list and give that a try. Eventually, you’ll find something you love and make some new friends in the process!
5. If All Else Fails, Seek Professional Help
If you’ve taken all the above steps and find your loneliness isn’t improving, talking to your doctor or finding a therapist may be a good idea. Mental health professionals can help you understand if your loneliness is chronic, related to past traumas, or caused by distorted thinking patterns. They can also help you with tangible coping mechanisms related to your individual situation.
Ultimately, combatting loneliness with actionable steps can work wonders in alleviating the feeling and helping you connect with others — and that’s essential to ensuring it positively impacts your overall health.
Author: Caitlin H
Diet-to-Go Community Manager
Caitlin is the Diet-to-Go community manager and an avid runner. She is passionate about engaging with others online and maintaining a healthy, active lifestyle. She believes moderation is key, and people will have the most weight loss success if they engage in common-sense healthy eating and fitness.